A convergence of cultures : The German Buddy Bear comes to Bulawayo

The German Embassy Harare will be unveiling the „Buddy  Bear“ in Bulawayo at an event organised in partnership with the National Gallery in Bulawayo as well as the initiative „ My Beautiful Home“. The ceremony will take place on Friday the 20th of January 2023 in the city of “Kings and Queens” at the National Gallery. The event aims at celebrating the Ndebele culture in a wider context and will also feature musical performances by Nobuntu, the choir „Sound of Joy Chorale“ and Asante Mo.  


The Buddy Bear, a 2 metres tall bear sculpture made of fibreglas, is the symbol of the German  capital Berlin – thus being called „Berlin Bear“ as well. The „Buddy Bear“ Campaign was initiated over twenty years ago by the German Foreign Ministry and made the Buddy Bears known around the globe as ambassadors of a liberal and cosmopolitan Germany. 


By now, bear sculptures have been erected in front of more than 100 German embassies and  ambassador’s residences. Local artists had been invited to propose designs that mirror the  friendly relations between Germany and the host countries. The raised arms of the Buddy Bear  are an expression of a friendly attitude and of optimism. 

When the two Buddy Bears for Zimbabwe arrived here in 2021, it was decided where the first  one was meant to go – to Bulawayo! 

Having in mind one of the key objectives of the Federal Foreign Office‘ cultural relations and  education policy – the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide – the German Embassy contacted the organisers of „My Beautiful Home“. This initiative, supported by the organisation  „Ekhaya Gaia“, the Amagugu Cultural and Heritage Center as well as the National Gallery of  Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, established an annual competition to revive the ancient art of  decorating rural homesteads within the Matobo, an UNESCO World Heritage site just outside  of Bulawayo. 

In order to contribute to the preservation and greater visibility of the magnificient Ndebele art  form of hut painting, the German Embassy invited women artists of Matobo to transfer their amazing designs onto the shape of the bear. Various women from the Matobo region were  invited to a workshop at the National Gallery early last year to experiment with brush and acrylic paint after which a number of drafts were submitted. The four designs by Lackina Zulu, Portia Ndlovu, Khumbulani Ncube and Kathazile Mlala were selected to decorate the Buddy  Bear. They assisted artist Talent Kapadza in using the correct forms and colours and the Buddy Bear design started taking shape over the past few months.

Besides introducing the Buddy Bear a range of clay pots will also be showcased. 20 women artists were, on invitation of the German Embassy, gathering at the National Gallery last December. During a creative workshop they adorned pots with their colourful designs. The  pots will be sold after the showcase. Parts of the proceeds will go to the purchase of more pots  for more women artists to help create a sustainable venture. 

After being showcased in Bulawayo, the Buddy Bear will travel home to Harare to take its place  at the German Embassy. It will be an ambassador of the women artists of the Matobo region and the cultural diversity of Zimbabwe.


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